The year 2015 is going to be remarkable because it’s going to be the year I don’t get behind in the garden. I’m going to start this season with everything I need to get the job done, so when crunch time happens, I’m ready. Here’s my list:
On the lawn: I’m going to have my mower blades sharpened. Sharpened blades not only give the grass a better looking trim, they save energy—up to 22 percent fuel cost savings, according to University of Kentucky Turf Specialist Dr. Gregg Munshaw. When I take the blades off, I’m also going to get an extra set, just in case I hit that same rock I did last summer.
And while I’m fooling with the lawnmower before the season, I’m going to set the mower height to three inches or higher. Mowing the grass high is the best way to help the lawn get through the heat of summer because taller grass holds moisture better than the scalped look. And taller grass also discourages many summer weeds, like crabgrass and nimblewill. While I’m on a roll, I think I’ll even take off the lawnmower’s air filter and clean that. Does wonders for engine performance.
For my trees and shrubs: I plant small trees every year—those offered by the state Division of Forestry—only to have many of them succumb for lack of water. In years past, I’ve watered with a hose, or a bucket when the hose doesn’t reach. This year, I’m going to have enough hose on hand to reach any small tree or shrub I plant, and I’m getting a few soaker hoses so I don’t have to stand there for an hour.
Since some of my trees and shrubs missed their fertilizer feeding last fall, I’m going to get it done while the plants are still dormant. Most gardeners think their trees and shrubs don’t need fertilizer, and it’s true they will likely survive without it. But they’ll thrive with at least some supplemental feeding, usually of a high-nitrogen fertilizer. I’ll read the label and not overdo it.
Another plan for my trees and shrubs is to keep them well mulched this year. Weeds, even lawns, can out compete small trees and shrubs for water and nutrients, so a layer of mulch, two-to-three inches deep, not only keeps down weed competition, it also keeps me from getting too close to the trunks with the zero-turn mower.
One last thing about trees: I will look over the University of Kentucky’s publication “Trees with Minimal Insect and Disease Problems for Kentucky Landscapes” to keep me from buying trouble when I visit my favorite garden centers and nurseries. If you want to download a copy for yourself, go to www.2ca.uky.edu and click on the horticulture link. It’s publication HO-94. Even better than the list of good trees is the same publication’s list of trees to avoid.
In the perennial beds: I’m going to cut down the perennial switch grass and feather reed grass this month—time for a change. And I’m going to take out the remains of a few peonies and hostas that should have gone bye-bye last fall. And then I’m going to have enough mulch on hand to freshen up the beds and smother the weeds before they get as big as I am.
Another of my plans is to mark the bulbs that start popping up this time of year. So often when I’m digging around in the beds I unearth bulbs of daffodils, crocus, etc., because I forget where they are after the foliage dies. This year, I’m going to mark them with aluminum tags. It may make the garden look like a pet cemetery, but we’ll see.
In the orchard and vegetable garden: Last year, as I ran out of fungicide or insecticide, I would run out and get some more. But what I learned is garden centers order products in the spring, and when they sell out, they don’t order any more. So to make sure I have enough for the season, I plan to buy everything I need in advance—and enough of it. That will come, of course, after taking an inventory of what I already have left. Pesticides, especially insecticides, do not keep more than two years, at best. So I won’t hoard the stuff—just get enough to get me to October.
Before the season begins, I’m going to have built a couple of raised beds. They won’t be works of art—basically just three, eight-foot boards nailed together (one cut in half for the ends)—but I’m going to fill them with soil and compost for planting strawberries and maybe raspberries. Almost every year, my strawberry patch gets overtaken by perennial weeds, such as Johnsongrass. If I plant in “clean” soil in a raised bed, I should get enough head start to keep weeds under control.
I’m also going to put down a layer of mulch under the fruit trees to control weeds after I put down compost for fertilizer.
And then just a couple of more chores before the month’s out. I’m going to clean out the pots that hold the summer annuals. I’ve been neglecting that chore for several years, and the soil in there is starting to resemble concrete. I may even get some new pots that match, so the place doesn’t look like I got potluck at the garden center yard sale.
I’m going to sharpen all of the hand tools, oil the wheelbarrow’s wheel, tighten the “hoe” on the high wheel, put a drop of oil in the sprayer pump, scrape the dirty gunk off the trowels, and repair those tomato cages.
Yep, I’m going to do all of that. And even if I don’t, you should.